As web designers, it is a testament to your skill if the user interface is smoother than Sean Connery. This is the ultimate goal of user interface design, and it gets that much harder on sites that have a large number of users, or have a lot of features to choose from.
There are many design techniques you can utilise, and these user interface design tips for social networking sites, should help you in making the users experience of the site, one for them to talk about.
Engagement. All social networking sites revolve around how they engage the user. This approach puts the user at the centre of the application, and encourages the user to engage in other parts of the site. Remember that all social networking sites are geared around talking and meeting people, so therefore the application must gear around the person. Facilities must also be easy to use. There is no point having a social networking site, and make it difficult to hide and show information about the user. In fact, the simpler this aspect is the better.
If you use Facebook, you have no doubt noticed that it gets regularly slated every time it changes a layout. Undoubtedly, the aim of the designers is to improve the user interface, but sadly, the reverse is true. There are two lessons to learn from this, one if it is not broken why fix it, and two, if it has to be changed explain why, and make sure that you tell people how to use it after the changes have been made. Or suffer the wrath of users you will.
Another user interface design tips for social networking sites where engagement is concerned, is that the more the application interacts with the user, the more the user will spread the word about the site. They will also become immersed in the site, and effectively become bound to it. This is obviously great for your social networking web design project.
Personalisation. It is essential that as part of your user interface design, that the user has the ability customize their user interface. This goes further than just switching on and off features, but delves into the world of turning on features that expand the social network and bring like minded individuals together. Though initially the main people a person will talk to will be people they know, eventually, a user will expand his online social network by joining applications to meet others. This will normally take the form of recommendations by people they know, and therefore by adding a ‘share this link’, type of interface, will undoubtedly help other users join in. The second is to allow features to be switched on and off that feed into the user via their interests. So if you have someone who is interested in cars, by allowing them to turn on the ‘custom car’ feed, will expand their social network. If they like it, they’ll click the ‘share this link’, link, and so the word will spread.
In short, personalisation not only helps the user have a better experience, but it also spreads the word about your social networking site.
Updates: By allowing users stay connected to real time updates, is another key user interface design element. If users can somehow get an unobtrusive message when a post is updated, by email or RSS feed, then the users tend to feel they are involved, and it keeps the rhythm going of the site.
With these tips in mind, you should be able to create better user interfaces. The one point that should be clear to you from these user interface design tips for social networking sites, is that everything should rotate around the user.
More tips to follow in part 2.